Vitamins & Minerals For Women: List & Functions

by Nicole Ramirez

Counting macros has become very popular as opposed to counting calories. Counting macros involves monitoring how much carbohydrates, fats and protein you intake. This has been described as flexible dieting because typically you are trying to stay within a range rather than hit an exact number although you can do that as well. Counting macros also assists in emphasising whole foods. For example, ice cream may help you hit your calorie goal but if most of your intake is high sugar foods you will not hit your protein goal. Therefore when you are looking at your macros you are able to decide whether or not you need to eat a higher protein, carb or fat food. While this is very helpful in monitoring our major macronutrients, our micronutrients are just as important, I always encourage clients to monitor micros as well. While counting micronutrients can be a bit harder, it is important to be aware of your intake. This article will be your go to guide with micronutrients. Deficiencies, functions, adequate intake and sources will all be covered.
Macronutrients are very important but so are those micros! Micronutrients have a variety of functions such as keeping our eyes, skin and bones healthy. If we have deficiencies in them, we will see some of our functions not performing optimally. Take a look over these vitamins and minerals and their signs of deficiency. If you feel you are exhibiting these symptoms, obtain a full blood test from your doctor to truly identify what you are deficient in. Many believe that it is okay to take an abundant amount of vitamins and minerals. In fact, too much can cause harm as well! The goal is to keep your levels in the acceptable ranges.
Let’s get started with the fat soluble vitamins. These vitamins are best consumed with a fat source to help with absorption.

Vitamin A
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA): 700mcg or 2,333 IU
Upper Limit (UL): 3,000 mcg or 10,000 IU
Other names: Retinol, retinal, retinyl esters, retinoic acid, beta carotene.
Benefits: Eye health, the antioxidants found in vitamin A have been found to protect against cataracts. Intake of Vitamin A has also been shown to decrease the risk of lung cancer. Vitamin A assists in growth and development, immune function and skin and bone formation.
Signs of Deficiency: Blindness, increased infection risk, pregnancy complications and skin issues.
Sources: Eggs, fish, cheddar cheese, sweet potatoes, carrots and pumpkin.

Vitamin D
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA): 15 mcg or 600 IU
Upper Limit (UL): 1,000 mcg or 4,000 IU
Other names: Ergocalciferol, cholecalciferol or calcitriol.
Benefits: Blood pressure regulation, bone health and hormone production.
Signs of Deficiency: Bone fractures, weak immune system, hair loss.
Sources: Eggs, fish, fortified products, sun.
** Important for vegans to monitor.

Vitamin E
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA): 15 mg or 22 IU
Upper Limit (UL):1,000 mcg or 1,500 IU
Other names: Alpha-tocopherol
Benefits: An antioxidant, protects other vitamins from damage, forms blood vessels.
Signs of Deficiency: Muscle weakness, numbness and tingling.
Sources: Fortified foods, green leafy vegetables, oils, peanut butter.

Vitamin K
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA): 90 mcg
Upper Limit (UL): Unknown
Other names: Phylloquinone, menadione
Benefits: Activates proteins and calcium which aides in blood clotting.
Signs of Deficiency: Easy bruising, excessive bleeding.
Sources: Green vegetables, cabbage, eggs, milk.

Those are our four fat soluble vitamins. Our body in fact does not need excess amounts of these vitamins because extra is stored in the liver and fat tissues. Fat soluble vitamins also will not be lost when cooked as water soluble vitamins are. Therefore, it is less likely to be deficient in these vitamins although they are important to monitor.

Water soluble vitamins are continually replenished due to the fact that they are excreted and not stored. They are also easily destroyed by water or excess heat. Water soluble vitamins include B vitamins and vitamin C. The following are our water soluble vitamins.

Vitamin B1- Thiamin
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA): 1.1 mg
Upper Limit (UL): Unknown
Benefits: Helps convert food into energy and aides in nervous system function.
Signs of Deficiency: Delirium, depression, confusion.
Sources: Pork chops, brown rice, beans, sunflower seeds, whole grains

Vitamin B 2- Riboflavin
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA): 1.1 mg
Upper Limit (UL): Unknown
Benefits: Helps convert food into energy. For healthy skin, hair, blood and brain.
Signs of Deficiency: cracked lips, mouth corner cracks, sore throat, magenta tongue
Sources:mProtein, peanuts, chicken, rice and milk

Vitamin B 3-Niacin
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA): 14 NE
Upper Limit (UL): 35 mg/day
Benefits: Metabolizes carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
Signs of Deficiency: Pellagra, dermatitis, dementia, bright red tongue
Sources:

Vitamin B 5- Pantothenic acid: It is rare to have a deficiency in this vitamin as it is found in all foods. As long as you are eating enough calories this is not a vitamin to be concerned about.

Vitamin B 6- Pyridoxine
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA):1.3-1.5mg
Upper Limit (UL): 100 mg/day
Benefits: Helps metabolize proteins
Signs of Deficiency:Seizures, anemia, dermatitis
Sources: Meat, wheat and corn.

Vitamin B7- Biotin
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA): 30mcg
Upper Limit (UL): Unknown
Benefits: Assists in fatty acid synthesis
Signs of Deficiency: muscle pain, dermatitis, glossitis (inflammation of the tongue)
Sources: Egg yolk, liver, synthesized by the bacteria in our intestine

Vitamin B 9- Folate
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA): 400mcg
Upper Limit (UL): 1,000 mcg
Benefits: Forms red blood cells
Signs of Deficiency: anemia, fatigue
Sources: fortified cereal, green leafy vegetables, lentils, beans

Vitamin B12-Cobalamin
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA):2.4 mcg
Upper Limit (UL): Unknown
Benefits: Forms red blood cell, helps in protein synthesis.
Signs of Deficiency: Anemia
Sources: Meat, milk, eggs, fish, cheese, fortified products
** Important vitamin for vegans to monitor.

Vitamin C
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA): 75-90 mg
Upper Limit (UL): 2,00mg/day
Benefits: Wound healing, aids in iron absorption, helps create collagen
Signs of Deficiency: scurvy, poor wound healing, bleeding gums
Sources: Citrus fruits, potatoes, papaya

These are all the water soluble vitamins. Remember to always consult a doctor before starting a vitamin and inquire about dosage. Lastly, important minerals in our body will be discussed. Minerals help our bodies maintain strong bones, produce nerve signaling and even help maintain our heart beat.

Calcium
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA):1000-1200mg
Upper Limit (UL): 2500mg/day
Benefits: Assists in blood clotting, cardiac and nerve function, smooth muscle contractility.
Signs of Deficiency: Muscle contractions
Sources: Dairy products, leafy vegetables, legumes

Phosphorus
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA): 700 mg
Upper Limit (UL): 4,000 mg/day
Benefits: Help keep bones and teeth healthy, helps transport fat when attached to a lipid.
Signs of Deficiency: Very rare, phosphorus is found in many foods
Sources:Meat, milk, eggs, cheese, beans, nuts

Iron
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA): 18 mg
Upper Limit (UL): 45 mg/day
Benefits: Oxygen transport
Signs of Deficiency: Pale tongue, anemia, spoon shaped nails, pale tongue
Sources: Heme iron- animal foods such as meat, fish, poultry. Non-heme: cereals, vegetables, legumes.

** Important for vegans to monitor as non heme iron sources are less absorbable.

Zinc
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA): 8 mg
Upper Limit (UL): 40 mg/day
Benefits: Enhances insulin action, helps with DNA and RNA
Signs of Deficiency: Reduced immune function, poor wound healing.
Sources: Meat, eggs, fish, beans, lentils, tofu

This is meant to be a reference for you when you are deciding on supplements or experiencing symptoms you have no explanation for. Use it as a guide.
There are many posing as experts who will try to sell you supplements that claim to “change your life” and while you may need supplementation, take it with a grain of salt and always do your own research. Vitamins and minerals are very important but as indicated above, there are upper limits to some which means they cannot be taken at an excessive amount. There are some vitamins such as vitamin A, E or iron that can build up to toxic levels easily. Too much vitamin A can cause dizziness, nausea, headaches, skin irritation, and joint pain. If you over consume niacin you could experience a burning, red, tingling sensation on your skin, nausea, or vomiting. Too much iron can give you stomach pains and can progress to worse pain. These are just a few examples. Water-soluble vitamins are perceived to be safer because they dissolve in water and any excess tends to be flushed out when using the bathroom. While this is true, as you can see above, many water soluble vitamins have an upper limit. For example, excess vitamin C can lead to diarrhea. These upper limits also include the food that you eat, so if you are supplementing and consuming foods with this vitamin you can be overdoing it. While it is rare to overdose on a vitamin when consuming whole foods, it is something to keep in mind when taking supplements.
It is recommended to first visit your doctor for a full blood test so you can see all the levels in your body. From there you can ask the doctor which vitamins or minerals to supplement. If you are in the normal range, there is little reason to supplement as you are receiving all your needs from the food you consume. Whole foods is a better choice before supplementation. Always review your diet and observe if any foods can be added in to aide in vitamin and mineral intake. For example, if you are tested low in iron, review the sources listed above and try to include more in your diet. Save this and use it as a guide to help during your next supplement purchase.